Minstrel Banjo

For enthusiasts of early banjo

I will be building my first gourd banjo soon. I have the gourd and will soon have a neck and goat skin. Does anyone know where you find the tacks for the skin attachment and what size are recommended?
Thanks

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Any kind of tacks you want to use are alright. One of the first recorded descriptions of a gourd banjo stated that "little nails" were used. There are a couple of things you want to keep in mind with gourds and I drew up a quickie diagram..

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I've always used the kind called "upholstery tacks"

yup. upholstery nails. if you go on ebay, you can find a zillion different kinds with all kinds of different finishes and head shapes. you really cant go wrong -- if you glue the head on under the tacks and dry it properly, you can pull the tacks out and play it without them, as they're only there to hold everything together while the glue and skin dry.

if youve never done a tack head before, make sure to buy two or three skins, as tearing the first one you do is almost unavoidable.

Thanks for the tips. Re. Skins:A friend is giving me a piece of goat skin but if you recommend being be prepared for mistakes where might be a good place to get additional skins ?

Re. mistakes, I think I already cut the gourd a little too short so I will pick up another one or two gourds from some growers.

it is definitely important to cut it high enough so that the gourd is already sloping back inward -- this makes it much more structurally stable, and able to withstand the tension of a tight skin a lot better. speaking of which, elderly has some nice goat skins in stock for VERY cheap. make sure to get them so theyre at least a couple inches longer than you need in each direction. mid-east manufacturing has also been a very good source for inexpensive, but nice skins. just remember that you dont have to put a whole lot of tension of the first four tacks (in the cardinal directions (NESW)). just enough to get it slightly taut is sufficient. after that you can start pulling hard.

Thanks, Elderly seems to have two thicknesses. I see that some of the skins at various other places are categorized as "thick", "thin" and "medium". Any recommendations on thickness?

i always get the thinnest ones i can. they may be more susceptible to moisture, but i feel like a properly taut thin skin head produces the best sound.

i just did a gourd this afternoon with a new shipment of super thin skins from elderly. went on easily and is now super tight and dry. before you tack, flip the gourd over on a flat surface so the open side is down, then rotate it 360 degrees while holding a pencil up to it so you can get a level line for the tacks. then pre-drill all the holes with a wire bit just slightly thinner than the shanks. i put the holes an inch apart, which works well for me. ill upload a pic of the one from today so you'll see what i mean.

Is there still a chance you could upload some photos of which you had mentioned last weekend when you get a chance?

Moschella Banjos said:

i always get the thinnest ones i can. they may be more susceptible to moisture, but i feel like a properly taut thin skin head produces the best sound.

i just did a gourd this afternoon with a new shipment of super thin skins from elderly. went on easily and is now super tight and dry. before you tack, flip the gourd over on a flat surface so the open side is down, then rotate it 360 degrees while holding a pencil up to it so you can get a level line for the tacks. then pre-drill all the holes with a wire bit just slightly thinner than the shanks. i put the holes an inch apart, which works well for me. ill upload a pic of the one from today so you'll see what i mean.

it's in the photo section right now. if you want any other specific photos, just message me.

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